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There’s so much we still don’t know about dementia, despite the fact that it affects more than 35 million people worldwide. Who gets it and what causes it are still pretty big mysteries to scientists, but we’re getting closer to understanding more about the disease with each passing day.

In fact, a new Canadian study published in The Lancet shows a strong correlation between dementia and living close to a major street. According to the report, researchers found that people who live close to major highways or traffic arteries are up to seven times more likely to develop dementia in their lifetime.

Why? Well that’s the part researchers haven’t quite nailed down yet, but they suspect it has something to do with the pollution caused by traffic. The theory is that air pollutants could affect the central nervous system and, in turn, cause dementia.

Researchers looked at nearly two million Canadians aged 20 to 85 and compared where they lived to dementia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. While they didn’t find a correlation between the two latter diseases, those who lived within 50 metres of a busy road were seven per cent more likely to develop dementia.

The good news? Those who lived more than 300 metres away appeared to be at no greater risk of developing the disease.

The population-based study stuck to Ontario residents who had been living in the province for at least five years and were Canadian born. It also took factors like diabetes, brain injury and neighbourhood income into consideration to help avoid skewed results. Obviously, this is just one of many studies surrounding the disease, but it could be an important one — especially if further research confirms the air pollutant-central nervous system link.

Moving away from that busy intersection in the near future may not be such a bad idea after all.

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